25 September 2005

Unfortunate New Zealand and Germany links

Under normal circumstances, I'm pretty thrilled when I find a news story or other tidbit which links my home country with my chosen country of abode. But not this time. This week there are two news stories linking Germany and New Zealand and both are bad, bad, bad.

First came the grim story of Birgit Brauer, a German backpacker from Dresden, who was murdered in a National Park near New Plymouth, apparently while hitchhiking. She was just 28 and had been living, working and travelling in New Zealand for eight months. Police are still investigating and working through tips and information they've received, but so far there don't appear to be any hot leads. It would seem that the police have not exactly handled this case ideally, having made a blunder by accidentally making sensitive information available via the internet. D'oh! But the most astonishing thing about this story is the fact that the day after the murder, both Tourism NZ and the Automobile Association went public to declare that hitchhiking in New Zealand is safe. You what? Um, do you want to be the one to tell them, or should I? Or, as Shona at Restless Kiwi put it:
Why don't they look the girl's parents in the eyes and say that?
Quite. Muppets.

And then there was the unfortunate story of the 23 year-old New Zealander who was found dead at the bottom of a hill near the Andechs Monastery in Bavaria, where he had been drinking with friends to "train" for the Oktoberfest. No, seriously, it's true. Expatica and the New Zealand Herald both have the unpleasant details.

And how bad does this quote from Expatica make us Kiwis look?
Thousands of New Zealanders gather at Oktoberfest, the beer festival, every year, and pay a mass visit to Andechs on the Thursday before Oktoberfest begins so that they can 'train' to drink more.
Nice. Almost enough to make you wish you were an Australian. Almost. No wonder New Zealanders are not popular guests at the Oktoberfest.

But even worse than that is this astonishing piece of denial from the hapless Kiwi drinker's father in the New Zealand Herald:
But Mr Paterson's father Murray Paterson yesterday denied claims his son had been heavily intoxicated. He said Richard had been at the monastery bar only a short time and had not had much to drink.

"He definitely died in a fall but it doesn't sound like he had been drinking much - he was only there for three hours," Murray Paterson told the Herald on Sunday.
Oh please! I really feel for the Paterson family at what must be a very difficult time, but come on. Quite apart from the fact that we learn from the Expatica article that "fellow tourists admitted they had been too drunk to remember if he was with them when they boarded public transport back to Munich after their Andechs visit last week," does anyone really think you can't get utterly plastered in three hours in a Bavarian brewery? Bear in mind that the Bavarians serve their beer in Masse, i.e. one litre glasses, and that the group was at the monastery expressly to "get fit" for the Oktoberfest, and it doesn't take a great feat of imagination to work out that in all probability sobriety was not the order of the day. The death is still a tragedy of course, but is it really necessary to pretend that the guy was a luckless angel, when it's patently obvious that that is not the case?

I just hope that next time there's a story linking New Zealand and Germany that it's better news.